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Grid computing to tackle the mystery of the dark universe

26 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists from the University of Manchester working on the revolutionary Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project have harnessed the power of distributed computing from the UK’s GridPP collaboration to tackle one of the universe’s biggest mysteries — the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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Galactic merger exposes supermassive black hole

4 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers using the super-sharp radio vision of the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have found the shredded remains of a galaxy that passed through a larger galaxy, leaving only the smaller galaxy’s nearly-naked supermassive black hole to emerge and speed away at more than 2,000 miles per second.

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Chance microlensing events enable astronomers to probe distant quasars

1 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Some galaxies pump out vast amounts of energy from a very small volume of space, typically not much bigger than our own solar system. The cores of so-called active galactic nuclei (AGNs) can be billions of light-years away, so are difficult to study in any detail. However, natural gravitational ‘microlenses’ can provide a way to probe these objects.

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Einstein’s Cross under the gravitational microlens

22 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of Spanish astrophysicists has obtained precise measurements for the innermost region of a disc of matter in orbital motion around a supermassive black hole in the lensed quasar known as Einstein’s Cross (Q2237-0305). It constitutes the most precise set of measurements achieved to date for such a small and distant object.

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World’s most powerful telescope digital camera gets green light for construction

1 September 2015 Astronomy Now

The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the start of construction for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera — the world’s largest — at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Assembled at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera will be the eye of LSST, revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries.

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Chilean astronomical site becomes world’s first international dark sky sanctuary

12 August 2015 Astronomy Now

The International Dark-Sky Association has just announced that the site of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) Observatory in the Elqui Valley of northern Chile has been recognised and designated as the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world. The site will be known as the “Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary” after the famed Chilean poet.

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Universe expanding more slowly than previously thought?

13 April 2015 Astronomy Now

A University of Arizona-led team of astronomers found that the type of supernovae commonly used to measure distances in the universe fall into distinct populations not recognised before. The findings have implications for our understanding of how fast the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang.